The Cayman Islands made an encouraging return to international football thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Ramon Sealy on Wednesday night.
Sealy made several crucial saves – including stopping a penalty at the start of the game – to help Cayman secure a scoreless draw against Belize in a FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture in Belmopan, Belize.
Sealy was called into action in the first minute after Jason Ebanks brought down a Belize forward in the box for a penalty.
The Bodden Town keeper guessed correctly, diving to his left to pull off a stunning save and silence the local crowd that filled the Belmopan Stadium.
Had that penalty been scored, Belize might have gone on to a comfortable victory, as their players and media had been boasting in the lead-up to the game.
Sealy was called into action several times throughout the match as the Cayman Islands defense was tested but never breached. Captain Abijah Rivers was tireless at the back, and coach Alex Gonzalez must have been impressed by the work rate of youngster Wesley Robinson and the commitment of Jason Ebanks and Benjamin Cupid.
The Ruiz brothers, Andres and Alejandro, marshalled the Cayman midfield without much joy in the first half, but they grew in confidence as the game went on.
Alejandro had Cayman’s best chance, after collecting a pass from Raheem Robinson, as he tried to lob the Belize keeper, who tipped the shot over the bar.
For the rest of the game, Cayman produced a series of brave defensive stops to keep them in the tie ahead of the return leg at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex on Sunday.
Renard Moxam, director of national teams, who was at the match, said, “The country should be very proud of the character we showed against Belize. They fought like lions in that arena.
“We were hammered with their aggression. and even our strikers Andres Ruiz and Mark Ebanks spent most of the time behind the ball and didn’t get many chances.
“Now we’ve got to get a goal on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to our attacking players giving us more.”